C of I professor publishes book on nature, language

Scott Knickerbocker, a professor of English and environmental studies at The College of Idaho, has released a new book titled "Ecopoetics: The Language of Nature, the Nature of Language." The book explores how poets not usually considered nature poets express humanity’s relationship with nature. Published by University of Massachusetts Press, the book is available for $26.95 on the UMass website.

Ecopoetics is a book about the complex relationships between word and world,” Knickerbocker said. “I’ve always been attracted to words and the world of which they’re a part. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been both outdoorsy and bookish, so you could say this book is a culmination of that.”

Over the years, ecocritics and other literary scholars interested in the environment have tended to examine writings that pertain directly to nature and to focus on subject matter more than expression. In this book, Knickerbocker argues that it is time for the next step in ecocriticism: exploration of the figurative and aural capacity of language to evoke the natural world in powerful ways.Ecopoetics probes the complex relationship between artifice and the natural world in the work of modern American poets—in particular Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Richard Wilbur and Sylvia Plath. These poets relate to nature as a deep wellspring of meaning, although they all avoid using language the way most nature writers do, merely to reflect or refer directly to the world. Each of these poets, in his or her distinct way, employs instead what Knickerbocker terms “sensuous poesis,” the process of rematerializing language through sound effects and other formal devices as a sophisticated response to nonhuman nature. Rather than attempt to erase the artifice of their own poems, to make them seem more natural and thus supposedly closer to nature, the poets in this book unapologetically embrace artifice—not for its own sake but in order to perform and enact the natural world. Indeed, for them, artifice is natural. In examining their work, Knickerbocker charts a new direction for ecocriticism.

As part of his commitment to experiential, interdisciplinary education, Knickerbocker leads two off-campus programs for College of Idaho students: the Winter Wilderness Experience (environmental studies, literature, cultural geography, ecology, and backcountry skiing in the Sawtooth Mountains near Stanley, Idaho) and a study abroad trip to Scotland and the Lake District of England (literature, art, music). He also plays banjo for the Hokum Hi-Flyers, an old-time string band in Boise

Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. It has a century-old tradition of educating some of the most accomplished graduates in Idaho, including six Rhodes Scholars, three Marshall Scholars, and another 11 Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College is located on a beautiful campus in Caldwell, Idaho. Its distinctive PEAK curriculum challenges students to attain competencies in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field, enabling them to graduate with an academic major and three minors in four years. For more information on The College of Idaho, visit